CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Lakiah Hyson hit both ends of a one-and-one with 18.1 seconds left to snap a 55-all tie and Monique Floyd scored eight of her 15 points in the final 5:05 as ninth-seeded UNC Greensboro downed No. 8 seed Western Carolina in the first round of the Southern Conference Women's Basketball Championship on Thursday, 57-55.
UNCG (10-19) will take on top-seeded Chattanooga (21-8) on Friday at approximately 11:30 a.m.
After a Kaila'Shea Menendez three-point play knotted the game at 55 with 1:13 left, Hyson intercepted a pass intended for Western Carolina's Caitlin Hollifield, who fouled Hyson on the play to put the Accokeek, Md., senior on the free throw line.
Hyson, who entered the contest shooting a career-best 78.1 percent from the free throw line, converted both attempts, putting UNCG back on top.
"I was nervous," Hyson said. "I had to make them, so I took my time and shot them. I'm just glad. It's overwhelming. I was nervous."
Now trailing by two, the Catamounts (7-23) called timeout with 14.4 seconds left and drew up a final play.
Jessica Jackson got off a 3-point shot from the right corner as time wound down, but UNCG would get the stop it needed for the win. Jackson's 3-pointer was off the mark and Floyd skied for the rebound, then raced toward UNCG's basket as time expired and the Spartans started to celebrate.
"Definitely a wild finish," UNCG coach Lynne Agee said. "I think we relaxed a little bit and kind of ran out of gas mentally. I thought we played a real good first half. You knew it was going to be a game. I felt like that was going to happen. It was your classic 8 versus 9. We were clawing and scratching for everything. We just had a terrific stop there at the end."
Hyson finished with a game-high 20 points, including an 8-for-10 effort at the free throw line.
Agne Girstautaite had 10 points and a season-high five blocked shots.
"She played super defense and finished with blocks without fouling today," Agee said of Girstautaite. "She was in pretty good position in the second half. I'm proud of her. She's real intense and she knows this is the end. And she played like it over the last week and a half, that this is the last time she's playing the game. She did a good job and obviously her contribution is what we needed. We needed eight or 10."
Western Carolina's Emily Clarke had 20 points of her own to share game-high honors with Hyson. Menendez was the only other Catamount in double figures with 12 points.
The Spartans never trailed against the defending tournament champion Catamounts, leading by as many as 14 in the first half. Western Carolina would gradually chip away at the UNCG lead over the last 10 minutes of the game, however, eventually tying it on Menendez's three-point play.
After a Girstautaite free throw made it 47-36 in UNCG's favor with 9:32 to play, the Catamounts got points from four different players in an 8-0 run to cut it to three at 47-44 with 5:24 to go.
That was when Floyd took over for UNCG, as her layup with 5:05 to go snapped UNCG's scoring drought of 4:27 and pushed the Spartans' lead back to five.
Clarke answered with a layup of her own to make it a one-possession game, and Floyd and Clarke traded buckets again to make it 51-48 with 4:09 to go.
Floyd scored another layup with 2:37 left, but Menendez got the first of her two three-point plays in the last few minutes to make it a two-point game at 53-51.
Floyd scored again on UNCG's next trip down the floor to give the Spartans a four-point advantage, but Clarke's free throw with 2:02 to go made it 55-52.
Menendez's three-point play that tied it marked the first time that Western Carolina had not trailed in the contest.
The win was UNCG's third in a row after a 10-game losing streak. The Spartans, who are last in the SoCon in rebounding margin, have out-rebounded all three opponents in their current winning streak. UNCG held a 35-34 edge on the boards Thursday.
Floyd had a phenomenal day in all aspects of her game, stuffing the stat sheet for 15 points, a game-high eight rebounds and a game-high five assists with no turnovers.
"The difference in the game was Mo Floyd, there's no question about that," Agee said. "She was just powerful on the block. She scored and we just kept calling her number. That kept us in the game."
Friday's game will be broadcast live on Spartan All Access and will tape-delayed on WPET AM 950 starting at 12:30 p.m.
NOTES: UNCG won its first-round game for the third straight season. … The Spartans improved to 2-0 all-time against Western Carolina in the SoCon tournament. The only other time the teams met in the tourney was in 1998, when UNCG took an 86-54 win in the quarterfinals en route to its lone SoCon tourney title. … UNCG won despite getting just two points from its bench. … Girstautaite's five blocked shots were a record for UNCG in the SoCon tournament. … Amanda Leigh finished 2-for-6 from 3-point range, moving her into second on UNCG's single-season list with 66. … Hyson's four steals gave her 197 for her career, moving her into seventh place in UNCG history.
UNC GREENSBORO 57, WESTERN CAROLINA 55
UNC GREENSBORO (10-19)
Lakiah Hyson 5-16 8-10 20; Monique Floyd 6-10 3-4 15; Agne Girstautaite 4-6 2-4 10; Amanda Leigh 3-8 0-0 8; Kendra Smith 1-6 0-0 2; Amy Clapper 1-2 0-0 2; TaShama Banner 0-3 0-0 0; Sarah Folwell 0-1 0-0 0; Brey Dorsett 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-53 13-18 57.
WESTERN CAROLINA (7-23)
Emily Clarke 7-14 3-4 20; Kaila'Shea Menendez 5-10 2-2 12; Caitlin Hollifield 2-7 3-4 7; TT Belcher 3-6 0-0 6; Kristen Feemster 2-5 0-0 4; Jessica Jackson 1-6 0-0 2; Janae Mckinney 1-3 0-0 2; Brittany Ferguson 1-1 0-0 2; Heather Swayne 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 22-56 8-10 55.
UNC Greensboro 30 27 57
Western Carolina 20 35 55
3-point goals--UNC Greensboro 4-16 (Lakiah Hyson 2-5; Amanda Leigh 2-6; Kendra Smith 0-3; Sarah Folwell 0-1; Brey Dorsett 0-1), Western Carolina 3-14 (Emily Clarke 3-7; Kaila'Shea Menendez 0-1; Jessica Jackson 0-4; Heather Swayne 0-2). Fouled out--UNC Greensboro-None, Western Carolina-None. Rebounds--UNC Greensboro 35 (Monique Floyd 8), Western Carolina 34 (Caitlin Hollifield 7). Assists--UNC Greensboro 7 (Monique Floyd 5), Western Carolina 8 (Jessica Jackson 4). Total fouls--UNC Greensboro 11, Western Carolina 13. Technical fouls--UNC Greensboro-None, Western Carolina-None.
- UNCG -